HARRISBURG — The 12-month period that will end at midnight Monday was a spotlight year in Pennsylvania politics.
The highlights include release of a scathing grand jury report on alleged child-sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests; a gubernatorial election campaign that was lost over a 13-second viral on-line video and a U.S. Senate election that continues the Casey Family’s highlights of the Casey family’s half-century legacy in Pennsylvania politics.
However, that spotlight shown brightest on a statewide grand jury report detailing alleged child sex abuse by priests in six of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic Dioceses, including the four-county Greensburg diocese. At least 33 priests from the Westmoreland, Fayette, Indiana and Armstrong region were accused of sexually abusing minors. Two reportedly impregnated girls. One allegedly ended in abortion.
Release of that report made international headlines. It also resulted in similar probes in at least four other U.S. states and several countries in South America and Europe.
The Altoona-Johnstown was not cited in the grand jury report. However the investigation reportedly began over an incident that occurred there several years ago.
Moreover, release of that report and resulting prosecutions have made state Attorney General Josh Shapiro a major political figure in Pennsylvania. He is expected to use Catholic priest child-sex abuse cases along with his battle against “robocalls” to fuel his expected 2022 challenge of incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.
On the gubernatorial front, Gov. Tom Wolf easily won a second term. He defeated Republican challenger Scott Wagner.
Wagner is pugnacious — a trait that was glaring throughout his campaign. However, it became his downfall in a 13-second viral on-line video in which he warned the incumbent governor to “put on a catcher’s mask because I going to stomp on your face with my golf spikes.”
The Governor will begin his second term at noon Jan. 8.
A new lieutenant governor will take office with Wolf. He is former Braddock Mayor John Fetterman. The former lieutenant governor, Mike Stack is running for mayor of Philadelphia.
Stack and the governor didn’t get along. The feud was not initially political. Rather, it focused on how Stack and his wife allegedly treated, or misused, State Police security personnel and staff at the lieutenant governor’s at Ft. Indiantown Gap, in Lebanon County.
Pennsylvania’s Constitution requires candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run separately in primary elections. Wolf obviously used that loophole by crowding the field with five Democratic Party hopefuls for the ticket’s number two slot — a maneuver that forced Stack off the ticket.
The tattooed and bearded Fetterman looks like a biker and is almost always seen in a short-sleeved black shirt and jeans. As Lieutenant Governor, Fetterman will also serve as president of the state Senate — a body that prides itself with formal decorum. Many are curious on his appearance when he presides over that body.
Casey won re-election to the U.S.. Senate over Republican Congressman Louis Barletta, of Hazelton
In a Democratic, so-called, Blue Wave year, Barletta was seen as being too close to President Donald Trump.
Like Trump, the GOP Congressman is an immigration opponent. As mayor of Hazelton, Barletta did everything in his power to prevent that community from becoming a so-called “sanctuary city” for illegal aliens. It failed against Casey.
The Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator’s victory takes his family legacy past-the half-century mark in Pennsylvania politics. His dad, the late Gov, Casey Sr., burst on the scene in 1966 when he ran for governor and chose Allegheny County judge Leonard Stacy as his running mate. It was the Casey-Stacy ticket. They lost the primary election that year to the late Gov. Milton Shapp,
Casey senior then served two terms as sate auditor general before eventually becoming the state chief executive.
Dennis Barbagello covered Harrisburg for the Tribune-Review for many years before retirement.